Published December 2019
There’s plenty to do in Huilo Huilo all year round. You can climb the Mocho-Choshuenco Volcano or go skiing in the winter or go rafting or ziplining on warmer days. Go camping or take advantage of the comfort offered by the hotels and its spas. Visit a museum or explore the trails. Try haute cuisine dishes made with local ingredients or have a pizza and craft beer at the end of the day. In this forest in southern Chile, there’s no lack of good options to have fun, rest, and enjoy nature. Here we highlight a few:
Huilo Huilo is located in the Los Ríos region, cut by rivers and creeks that form great waterfalls. The main one is Salto Huilo Huilo, a postcard site in the forest, but it’s also worth taking the trails that lead to Salto La Leona and Salto El Puma, the latter with a drop of almost 100 feet [30 m].
Pirihueico Lake is so big that one portion is in Chile and the other, in Argentina. You can sail its waters or just contemplate it from a deck open to visitors or the ofuros at the hotel Marina del Fuy, which are for guests only.
The person in charge of the kitchens at all hotels in the private reserve is Claudio Navarrete, a chef who was born in the region. The menus vary according to the season and the ingredients available in the forest: wild fruits, fungi, animals raised freely, vegetables, and many more products grown there. And it’s Claudio Navarrete himself that takes care of the Huilo Huilo garden, every day.
Close to Huilo Huilo, the Mocho-Choshuenco Volcano attracts climbers from all over the world. Located in the reserve, the Museo de los Volcanes, still under construction, tells the story of Los Ríos and its first inhabitants. Their idea is that, when completed, the museum will portray the evolution of the world, from the beginnings to the present. Their permanent exhibition has several original items and replicas, acquired by Victor Petermann over the years.
Extending for 10.5 miles [17 km], the Fuy River cuts through the forest. In the wet season, it’s a famous spot for kayaking and rafting, but if you’re not such an adventurer, you can cross it on a suspension bridge that connects its two banks.
One of the trails in the forest is known as Sendero de Los Espíritus, and it pays homage to the ancestral spirits that inhabited Chile. To get in the mystical mood that this activity calls for, it’s ideal that you take the trail at night, accompanied by one of the hotel guides. They hand out flashlights to visitors and tell Mapuche legends ‒ a native people that lives in the region ‒ on the tour.
Los Ríos, especially the city of Valdívia, is also known for being one of the main craft beer producing regions in Chile. To honor this tradition, Huilo Huilo has its own brewery, with four types of the beverage, that also serves pizza made with local ingredients. Try the one made with boar and deer meat.
To bring home a souvenir from your trip, visit Parque Kümun in Neltume. There you’ll find the workshops where artisans make items out of wood, felt, iron, and several other materials. Take advantage to buy a fairy, elf, or chucao bird, which are symbols of Huilo Huilo.
The Huilo Huilo Foundation, in association with LATAM and the Cuido Mi Destino Project, runs conservation programs for species that are endemic to southern Chile, like the south Andean deer. Some of these animals live in controlled areas in the forest to reproduce, to be studied, and later released back into the wild. Recently, a couple of south Andean deer were released in Huilo Huilo to live freely.
The closest airport to Huilo Huilo is in Valdívia. There, you can rent a car or hire a shuttle service (some hotels in the reserve offer this option) and travel for approximately two more hours.
Huilo Huilo is also known for its hotels with curious architecture and good infrastructure, with varied daily rates for different budgets. Nothofagus Hotel & Spa, which pays homage to the region’s native trees, is the biggest ‒ very popular among families and couples on their honeymoon. Hotel Reino Fungi is shaped like a mushroom and has 22 rooms. Hotel Montaña Mágica was the first in the reserve, with smaller but very charming rooms (there are just nine). Nawelpi Lodge has 12 645-square-foot [60 m²] bungalows, all with a veranda. And Marina del Fuy has a pool and ofuros in front of Pirihueico Lake. You can also rent cabins or apartments for the whole family in the forest, and there are cheaper accommodation options in Neltume, the closest village to Huilo Huilo.